ST. PETERSBURG — The St. Petersburg City Council took up the issue of red-light cameras again Thursday night. And, again, efforts to rid the cameras from the city failed.
The council met for a vote on a new state law regarding the cameras, which requires cities to set up an appeals process for people who want to contest their tickets. Currently, appeals from the cameras go to county court.
Now, the law requires cities to offer another option for appeal. To comply, they must designate hearing officers, contract for outside services or add the duties to a municipal board such as code enforcement.
Had the council voted not to comply with the new law, which goes into effect in July, it would have ended the red-light camera program.
The new regulations come with a price tag, which was part of the focus of criticism from council member Wengay Newton, a strong opponent of the cameras. The new law keeps the $158 fine for running a red light, but allows cities to tack on up to $250 more if they rule against the appealing party.
"I want to be sure this isn't going to be another money machine for the city," Newton said. He questioned city attorneys about how much money St. Petersburg would charge. They couldn't provide an exact figure, but said it was estimated to be about $100.
"It will give people another avenue to go through," city attorney John Wolfe responded. "The city is not going to make any more money through this process. If anything, we wish we didn't have to do this."
Newton also questioned city transportation officials regarding the timing of yellow lights at some intersections. He asked about a handful of intersections where the timing was known to be off. Transportation officials said the problems at those locations had been addressed, but the councilman was still skeptical.
"There's obviously a lot of problems with the program and they're not going to be fixed," he said.
He suggested terminating the city's contract with a private vendor that handles the red-light cameras. But that effort failed.
The council passed the measure 5 to 3. Council members Leslie Curran and Steve Kornell joined Newton in voting no.